Merciful Lord, today my ears are attuned to your voice and my heart is open to your Word.
Read REVELATION 14:1-5
The Lamb and the 144,000
14 Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps. 3 And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4 These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among mankind and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. 5 No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘We always thank God for … your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.’1
If the previous chapter offered a stark picture from an earthly point of view, then this section offers, as a counterpoint, an uplifting one from a heavenly perspective. It tells us about the followers of the Lamb – where they are, what they are doing and what they are like. They ‘stand on Mount Zion’ (v 1), which in the Old Testament is another way of talking about the temple in Jerusalem, the place of God’s presence. That is why those whom the first beast blasphemes are described as ‘those who live in heaven’.2 As Paul puts it, he has ‘seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus’.3
The ‘144,000’ (v 1) are those whom John hears about4 and when he turns to see them they are ‘a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language’,5 who have been described as ‘redeemed’ for God by the Lamb,6 the language repeated here (v 3). Their harps have become part of the popular cliché about heaven – but in fact they are the instruments of the Levitical priests in temple worship.7 This is a priestly people,8 who sing the song of God’s gracious redemption to the whole world9 and who therefore sound like God himself (‘many waters’10) – these saints are singing from the same hymn-sheet as Jesus.
The phrase ‘did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins’ (v 4) is metaphorical. It draws on the Old Testament metaphor of sexual purity symbolizing devotion to God and the rejection of idolatry, so that God’s people become the ‘bride’ of Christ.11 The seven qualities become a sign of hope (‘firstfruits’, v 4) to the world.
Identify areas of your life, in thought, speech, or action, where you should open yourself to the Spirit’s purifying power. How can you be a better sign of hope?
Lord, I’m thankful that your patience is greater than mine. You give hope to the hopeless and transformation for the broken. Continue your transforming work in me.
Last Updated on May 12, 2023 by kingstar